125 years of change

Sal­va­tion Army cel­e­brates 125 years in Prince Al­bert

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - JA­SON KERR

Roughly four decades ago, Claude Pelletier knocked on a door in Regina, search­ing for help.

He was an al­co­holic and, in his words, “down on his luck.” The door be­longed to the Sal­va­tion Army, and the of­fi­cer who an­swered it gave an un­ex­pected re­sponse.

“He didn’t tell me how good the Sal­va­tion Army was,” Pelletier re­mem­bered dur­ing an in­ter­view on Tues­day. “But, he did say to me, ‘we the Sal­va­tion Army can’t help you, but we can in­tro­duce you to some­body who can, and that some­one is the lord Je­sus Christ.’ I took that, I bought it and I’ve been fol­low­ing the Lord every since.”

In the 40 years since then, Pelletier has had his ups and downs, but he’s re­mained com­mit­ted to his faith, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion that helped him find it. When the Sal­va­tion Army cel­e­brates their 125th year in Prince Al­bert on Satur­day, he’ll be one of many mem­bers hon­our­ing the oc­ca­sion.

“I came to the Sal­va­tion Army to quit drink­ing and I stayed for 40 years,” he chuck­led. “It’s in­cred­i­ble.”

Today, Pelletier is one of nearly 60 Sal­va­tion Army mem­bers liv­ing in Prince Al­bert, a far cry from where the or­ga­ni­za­tion started 125 years ago.

When the Prince Al­bert chap­ter of­fi­cially opened on Aug. 22, 1892, it had two mem­bers: Cap­tain Mary Ren­nie and Cap­tain Alice Good­ing. The two women spent most of their time vis­it­ing log­ging camps to pray with, serve and min­is­ter to the labour­ers.

By 1906, the or­ga­ni­za­tion had a brand new $7,000 of­fice in Prince Al­bert and a grow­ing list of soldiers, vol­un­teers and ad­her­ents. In 1961 they opened a new corps build­ing on 12th Street East. The or­ga­ni­za­tion evolved from vis­it­ing log­gers to min­is­ter­ing in nurs­ing homes and pen­i­ten­tiaries. They started ham­per drives, opened a thrift store and started a break­fast pro­gram.

“There was a need for emo­tional and spir­i­tual care there,” said Cap­tain Laura van Schaick, an­other Prince Al­bert Sal­va­tion Army mem­ber. “That need might look a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent now, but it’s def­i­nitely still there.”

Through­out all that time, the mem­bers main­tain that some­thing more at work than the urge to vol­un­teer.

“It’s God work­ing through us,” Pelletier said. “We could never make this hap­pen on our own.”

The bonds have lasted a long time. When can­vass­ing for do­na­tions, Pelletier said it’s com­mon to run into peo­ple who have sto­ries about how the or­ga­ni­za­tion helped them out years or even decades ago. Se­cond World War veter­ans tend to be par­tic­u­larly fond of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, thanks to the ‘donut girls,” mem­bers of the Sal­va­tion Army who set up can­teens and baked donuts for soldiers on the front lines.

“I did a fu­neral ser­vice for a vet­eran shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing in P.A.,” Van Schaick re­mem­bered. “He wasn’t a church mem­ber, but the fam­ily was adamant that the Sal­va­tion Army was go­ing to be per­form­ing his memo­rial ser­vice be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence with the Sal­va­tion Army in the war.”

The Sal­va­tion Army mis­sion looks quite a bit dif­fer­ent today than it did 125 years ago, and Van Schaick ex­pects more change in the fu­ture. She said it’s im­por­tant for the or­ga­ni­za­tion to be flex­i­ble in meet­ing the needs of the com­mu­nity.

“There are still peo­ple in P.A. and around the world who are feel­ing hope­less and lost and still need some­one like the Sal­va­tion Army to come along side and show them that there is hope,” she said.

“The be­liefs of the Sal­va­tion Army will never change,” Pelletier added. “But, the way we work can change, to adapt to what­ever sit­u­a­tion comes along. We’re al­ways flex­i­ble for that.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO.

Mem­bers of the Prince Al­bert Sal­va­tion Army pose for a photo with city of­fi­cials and for­mer prime min­is­ter John Diefen­baker (se­cond from left) dur­ing the 1977 Christ­mas Ket­tle Kick-off.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO.

Sal­va­tion Army mem­bers pose for a photo with the newly con­structed Prince Al­bert of­fice in 1906. The build­ing was de­mol­ished in 1961.

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